In ancient times, the use of weights was confined to weighing
precious metals, silver and gold, which served as a means of
payment before the invention of coins; weights were also used
to weigh special products, such as spices and medicines.
The Museum's collection contains weights made of stone, bronze,
lead, and glass that belong to the different weighing systems
commonly used among the cultures of the Ancient Near East from
the Canaanite period to the end of the Byzantine period. The
weights come in a variety of shapes, the most noticeable being
a group of animal shaped weights made of bronze or hematite.
A large and important group in this collection is that of the
Judean stone weights from the end of the First Temple period
(8th to 6th centuries BCE). The weighing system was based on
the shekel unit in multiples of four: 2, 4, 8, 16, 24, 40, etc.
Apparently this correlated with the weighing system used in
Egypt, with which Judah had trade contacts during this period.
In the absence of numerical digits, the Judean weights have
markings in the Egyptian hieratic script.
Other Judean weight units were the beqa, nesef, and pym, and their names are
inscribed in ancient Hebrew script on the weights.
This weighing system, which was introduced in the 8th century BCE,
went out of use with the destruction of the First Temple and the loss
of independence of the Kingdom of Judah in 586 BCE. It was replaced by
the Babylonian-Persian weighing system.
Stone weights from Judah, Late Israelite (Iron) period
8th - 6th centuries BCE